FAA Shuts Down Juneau Charter Operator, Citing Safety Concerns

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An Alaskan charter and commuter service based in Juneau that has been in operation since 1956 has been shut down by the FAA by an emergency order citing safety concerns. L.A.B. Flying Service ran a fleet of small aircraft including several Cherokee Sixes, a Britten-Norman Islander, and a Piper Navajo Chieftain. The FAA alleges that in 2002 and '03, there were five instances when things broke or fell off L.A.B. airplanes in flight. Since 2004, the company has committed an "astounding number" of maintenance-related violations, the FAA said. Then, in May of this year, the company took an engine out of an airplane that had been destroyed in a fire and bolted it to another airframe, without making any effort to check for heat damage, showing a "callous disregard" for safety, and "an appalling lack of the care, judgment and responsibility required of a certificate holder," according to the FAA. A brief statement posted at the company Web site reads, "Unfortunately we have temporarily suspended our flights. We've enjoyed serving SE Alaska for the last 52 years and look forward to serving you again. Thank you for your support."

Christine Klein, deputy commissioner of Aviation for the State of Alaska Department of Transportation, told the Alaska Journal of Commerce that losing a carrier in Southeast Alaska means there will be a definite shortage of air service there. "This is devastating news to the passengers and travelers," she said. The FAA order took effect on July 24. A copy of the 28-page report is posted online. The company has 10 days to appeal.